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We are a two printer family. Yes, we have the "good printer" and the "little printer." The "little printer" is the budget printer and the subject of this article. Anything that's not critical as regards archival permanence gets printed in the "little printer."

While the good printer is for archival, arty work, we bought the "little printer" for run of the mill printing such as e-mails, small family photos, birthday cards for the grandchildren and the like.

Choosing a Budget Printer

The "little printer" is an Epson Stylus C45 and prints up to A4 size in full colour. It has two ink cartridges: a black cartridge and a three colour cartridge.

My wife sent me up to the post office to get it about six months ago for $79; Australian dollars, that is. Now they've come down in price to $59.

Other manufacturers market their own budget priced printers. Have a look around and you'll find one to meet your budget.

The reproduction of colour and detail is excellent. What more could you ask for in a budget printer?

Lifespan of a Budget Printer

Now, I don't expect a budget printer to have an enduring lifespan. In a commercial print shop I suppose a week would see it out. But with the amount of work it will get at our place it's reasonable to expect to get years of trouble free budget printing out of it.

Slow Printing

The only downside that I can see is that printing a top quality colour photo is slow. A digital photo printed at A4 size at top quality, takes about 20 minutes. But that's fine if budget is the key word and time is on your side. The important thing is your ability to produce quality, budget, colour photos at home. Of course, you won't be printing A4 all the time.

Ink Cartridge Refilling Process

I make a major saving by refilling my ink cartridges with after market (non genuine) ink. This involves removing some ink from the various coloured ink bottles with a syringe and injecting it into the correct ink tank in the ink cartridge.

The refilling process should not be a messy business provided you take suitable precautions. I put some newspaper on the kitchen table for the refilling process. Between each colour I wash the syringe in a trickle of water, in a jam jar lid, in the laundry tub.

Obstacles to Ink Cartridge Refilling

In the case of Epson, the manufacturer has tried to beat after-market ink producers by designing a chip into the cartridge to tell the printer that an empty cartridge is empty. However, not to be thwarted, the after-market ink manufacturer has produced a chip re-setter to reset the chip to tell the printer that the refilled ink cartridge is full.

The chip re-setter is a small computer type gadget, housed in a plastic case and a little bigger than a matchbox. You simply press the ink cartridge against the pins on the chip re-setter, a red light flashes and your refilled ink cartridge is ready to go again; as good as new for a small part of the price of a new ink cartridge. Of course, it's a bit time consuming, but that's how it is with budget systems, isn't it?

With other brands of printer it's much more straightforward. Just whip the empty cartridge out, refill it, put it back in, tell the printer it's got a full ink cartridge and away you go.

Budget Photo Printing Paper

By looking around eBay for budget priced photo printing paper, I've also kept this expense well within the budget requirements for run of the mill digital photo printing jobs.

Archival Permanence

Although the manufacturers of both the budget ink and the budget printing paper assure me that their products are of a high standard, I would not trust an image requiring archival permanence to my budget printing system. Of course, it may be quite OK. I have no way of knowing.

Warranty

I've had no print head problems with the budget ink, but the possibility exists that you could clog the print head and void your warranty at the same time. I work it out this way:

They sell the printers cheap and make their money on the ink and paper. A black and a colour cartridge cost about a third to a half the cost of a new printer. Bundled with the new printer is a pair of cartridges. If I need to buy a new printer every fifth ink cartridge refill, I'll be in front. But I'm doing better than that.

All on a Budget

Following this budget digital photo printing regime you can be one of those families or singles with photos on the fridge, photos on the TV, photos on the microwave, photos everywhere, all on a budget.

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